This paper explores ideation capabilities in large organizations. Based on the dynamic capabilities framework, it is seen that ideation capabilities are managerial and organizational processes for the stimulation, identification, selection and implementation of ideas. In order to explore how these capabilities are manifested and used in firms, case studies of four Swedish companies have been performed. The results of the study show that there are different approaches to ideation. In terms of the nature of innovative ideas, the observations lead to the suggestion that ideation presents some seemingly paradoxical issues to management. Firms with an explicit focus on building ideation practices experience that there are some negative consequences of the resultant formalization. Furthermore, the extent to which many employees should be involved in ideation is a difficult aspect, even though new technologies make this more viable. Also the degree to which the search for ideas should be directed is a non-trivial question, as the ideation processes can be facilitated by both freedom and limitations. It is nevertheless seen that firms can benefit from more deliberate approaches to ideation, in particular if these are broad and balanced and focus on both building capabilities that formalize the informal, in terms of establishing explicit processes, roles and systems, and building capabilities needed to manage informal structures in new ways.
2010. Vol. 19, no 4, 385-396 p.